Forestry grants get a boost to encourage tree planting
Two of the main schemes designed to support woodland creation in England have had their funding periods extended in an attempt to make them more attractive to landowners and land managers.
It is widely acknowledged that England is behind on its tree planting targets, with the Government having set a goal of increasing tree canopy and woodland cover in England to 16.5% by 2050.
The primary grant scheme available for woodland creation in England is the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO). Under EWCO, farmers and land managers previously had two years to complete any funded planting and associated works. This has now been extended to three years, giving them two planting seasons in which to undertake the works.
This will give farmers and land managers more flexibility and allow for external factors which may be out of their control, such as the time it takes to source saplings, contractor availability and any weather events that may impede any works to be undertaken during certain periods.
The other funding stream related to woodland creation is option WD1 under the Countryside Stewardship scheme. It is separate to EWCO funding and available under Higher Tier agreements, providing maintenance payments to agreement holders to help maintain established woodland. The funding period for WD1 used to be 10 years and this has now been extended to 15 years, therefore extending the financial support for woodland management.
EWCO and WD1 under Countryside Stewardship both offer great opportunities for farmers and land managers to increase tree cover on their land. Trees can provide many benefits including soil protection, flood mitigation, habitat creation and increased carbon sequestration.
To emphasise the importance that is being placed on new planting, the government has also announced (29 November) plans for an additional ‘national forest’.
It has announceda new award which will support the creation of new woodland or the connecting up of existing woodlands, with successful bids to be announced in 2024.
In addition, two new community forestswhich will be created in Derbyshire and the Tees Valley, which will see 175 hectares of new woodland planted by 2025, building on the success of the 13 existing community forests across England.
Meanwhile, the Forestry Commission has also made some additional money available for training courses through the Forestry and Arboriculture Training Grant.
We reported last year that demand for the first round of the scheme had proved to be extremely high, so funds were allocated very quickly.
While much of the latest tranche of funding has also been allocated within a few days, it is still possible to obtain 100% grant funding for Instructor Training courses which are undertaken between 1 April 2024 and 31 March 2025.
Applications cannot be retrospective and are being accepted until March 2025 or until all the funding has been allocated. Given the unprecedented demand the initiative has seen it seems the latter is more likely – so we would recommend that applications are made as soon as possible.
Reviewing the application process, it appears that ‘Instructor Training’ course options include:
- LANTRA-certified instructional technique courses
- a range of first aid courses
- NPTC assessor
- NPTC technical evaluation courses
We continue to keep our fingers crossed that Defra and the Forestry Commission will make further funds available for short courses, as they are much in demand. They are not only beneficial for the skills and experiences of the individuals who apply, but also to a sector that is short of qualified operatives.
For more information on woodland funding streams in England, you can have a look at our quick guide here and if you would like to discuss further woodland creation opportunities, please contact a member of our Forestry team.